St Mary’s

Floorball-Team Canada-St Mary's SS

Floorball story


Floorball is an exciting sport whose origins can be traced to Canadian floor hockey played in school gymnasiums in the 1960s.  The rules were later changed to add some common to soccer, like corners and fouls.  This new sport exploded in popularity in Nordic countries, later spreading to other areas of Europe.  Unfortunately, the sport has remained relatively unknown to most Canadians.

In 2008, St. Mary’s Secondary School decided to add the sport to their Physical Education program.  Greg Conway, a physical education teacher at the school, noticed the availability of equipment for Floorball from one of the school suppliers.  He remembered seeing the game on his travels in Sweden in 2002 and thought it would be popular among his students.  Sticks and balls were purchased and classes from Grades 9-12 began playing it regularly.  It quickly became one of the most popular activities in Phys Ed classes. 

In 2011, Conway was approached by Todd Crawford, a high school teacher at Moira Secondary School in Belleville, about helping start a Canadian Women’s Under-19 National Team.  Crawford knew that St. Mary’s was one of only a handful of schools that played Floorball – the others being Crawford’s own school as well as a couple of schools in Hamilton.  Crawford would be the Head Coach and Conway would join the staff as an assistant.  Together, they would develop local female talent and enter a Canadian team at the upcoming Floorball World Championships in Slovakia in 2012.  Conway agreed and the local development and popularity of Floorball moved forward.

Conway then started a Girls Floorball team at St. Mary’s.  They would compete in a number of tournaments – in Belleville, Toronto, Hamilton, and in Cobourg at St. Mary’s.  As a result, Crawford and Conway were able to identify several high-level athletes - mostly hockey players – who could naturally transition into Floorball and make Canada a competitive team.  Of the twenty girls selected to the team, five were from Northumberland County.  Hannah Rowe, Tayler Weatherby, Katie Linker, Lauren Valyear and Katie McAllister were all selected to the team.

Team Canada travelled to Nitra, Slovakia in 2012 and competed in the B-Division at the Floorball World Championships, joining Denmark, Latvia, Germany and Austria.  The B-Division was essentially a second tier of teams trying to qualify for A-Division to eventually compete against powerhouses Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, etc.   Canada was picked to finish dead last in their division as a new team.  Instead, they finished with 1 win, 1 loss and 2 ties – coming within a goal of winning the division!  As a result of their performance, Canada immediately earned the respect of the international Floorball community.  They were invited to return every two years to compete, as the Women’s U-19 Championships happened every other year.

Upon returning home, Floorball exploded at St. Mary’s.  Conway was soon coaching both a Girls team, as well as a Boys team the following year.  The same formula was used – organizing and competing in high school tournaments around the province, from Ottawa to Hamilton and everywhere in-between they could find them.  As a result of the popularity of the sport, St. Mary’s invested in a set of official Floorball boards for their gym.

Conway remained with Crawford coaching Team Canada, and in 2014 they selected the next team to compete in the World Championships – including six more girls from Northumberland County.  Sarah Bernier, Katie Linker, Meghan Behan, Stacey Orleck, Mackenzie Deseure and Stephanie Ford all made the team.  The team traveled to Babimost, Poland to again compete in the B-Division, this time against Norway, Germany, Ukraine and Austria.  The team did exceptionally well, finishing with 3 wins and 1 loss, capturing the B-Division Silver Medal, clinched following a thrilling 5-4 win over Germany.

Floorball continued to grow at St. Mary’s.  Conway was now coaching two Girls teams and three Boys teams from his school every year.  Floorball was also growing in in other regions in Ontario, so much so that the International Floorball Federation awarded the 2016 Women’s U-19 World Championships to Belleville.  In order to prepare, Conway and Crawford took a team of Canada prospects to Los Angeles, California to play the United States in a pair of exhibition games.  Canada swept their southern neighbours, winning 20-0 and 15-1.

Four more girls from Northumberland were selected to Team Canada for the 2016 world Championships in Belleville – Aislyn Stretch, Kieva Earle, Olivia DiVona and Dara Killoran.  The team again competed in the B-Division – which had grown to include teams from Germany, Thailand, Japan, Austria, Hungary and the United States.  As hosts, Canada was granted a privilege no other Canadian team at any level had been offered – a game versus the World Champions from Sweden. 

The game ended as anyone would expect, but the Canadians held their own and proved they were a rising power in the world of Floorball.  Following their exhibition game, Canada took their competitive play into the round-robin,  finishing atop their pool, beating Germany, Thailand and Japan.  They then defeated the United States 10-3 in the semi-finals before losing a heartbreaker 5-4 to Germany in the Gold Medal game.

Floorball continued along the same path at St. Mary’s – Girls and Boys teams competing in tournaments – though schools in Hamilton, Ottawa and Toronto no longer offered as many tournaments.  This meant St. Mary’s would have to host most of the tournaments themselves.  This would result in filling spots with several teams based from the school – a testament to how popular the sport had become at St. Mary’s.

In 2018, Conway and Crawford would select their fifth team to compete at the World Championships, this time competing in St. Gallen, Switzerland in 2018.  Conway had become the General Manager of the team.  Four local girls would be selected to represent Canada this time around – Aislyn Stretch, named team Captain, along with Meg Quigley, Hunter Jones and Marlie Owen. 

They would compete in the B-Division once again, this time against Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Hungary, Latvia and the United States.  Canada would finish the tournament 2-2, dropping games to Russia and Hungary before beating New Zealand and then Australia – in a game both countries dubbed the “Unofficial Commonwealth Floorball Championship”.

Following the tournament, both Conway and Crawford decided it was time retire from coaching Canada in order to give the team over to a new generation of coaches.  After successfully building the program for 7 years across 4 World Championship campaigns, the team finished with an international record of 13 wins, 6 losses and 2 ties.  The team match summaries are posted here:

Floorball continues to be a very popular activity at St. Mary’s, though finding teams to play against at other schools proves to be the biggest challenge currently.  The sport also seems to be growing in other parts of the country, with Halifax hosting the Men’s U-19 world Championships in 2019.  Hopefully local athletes continue to seek out opportunities to play, both here and on the World stage representing Canada.


Sport Team or Name This Story is about

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

2018 St Mary's CSS photos of Thunder Floorball teams

Card Description

2018 St Mary's CSS photos of Junior & Senior Boys and Girl's Thunder Floorball teams

Type Of Object
Team or Principal Name
Sport Type
Sport League
Sport Level
Accession Number

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

School-St Mary's CSS Athletics

St Mary's School jacket

School-St Mary's CSS First 3 Sports

Swim Team
In 1984, St. Mary’s Secondary School (SMCSS) began.  The building located at 760 Burnham St., Cobourg, housed students from Grade 1 – 9.  There were 14 Grade 9 students in the first year.  It was difficult to run any sport teams for the Grade 9’s.   

In 1985, St. Mary’s swim team started.  We practiced every week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 am during the Fall at the local YMCA.  We had all levels of swimmers on the team.  The only requirement was attendance.  

There were students from Campbellford that were interested in joining but had no way of getting to the practices that early.   After speaking to the Director of Education, Don Folz, he agreed to provide a bus for the interested students on Mondays and Wednesdays.  

The swim team had many successful years and fortunately is still thriving today.  We have attended OFSAA every year since the team’s inception.   

Cross-Country Team
St. Mary’s Cross-Country team began in 1987.  As we didn’t have a track or any running facilities, training consisted of running through the local neighbourhood.  We practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after school.  We only had a handful of students interested in competing on the Cross-Country team.  

We were always at a disadvantage in terms of competition with other Secondary Schools given our lack of facilities.  Our “creative” practices didn’t always glean the results we were hoping for.  However, our students never gave up and always worked hard and gave it their all. 

There was one student, however, who was a natural long-distance runner.  Sarah Johnston worked diligently and qualified at Kawartha to move on to COSSA.  The highlight for Sarah was being able to compete at OFSAA in Cambridge, Ontario. 

Track and Field Team
St. Mary’s Track and Field team started in 1987.  Facing the same disadvantages as the Cross-Country team, we made do with the facilities that we had.  We were able to practice the field events, such as javelin, disc, high jump and long jump on our driveway and small outfield.  The long-distance running athletes ran through the neighbourhood while the short distance runners, hurdlers and relay teams practiced on the small paved area around the school.  Wind sprints up the small hill at the side of the school helped with the cardio portion of the practice.   Practices were held 4 nights a week, with all students being welcomed as long as there was a commitment to attend all practices.   

We were fortunate to have a sprinter, Tony Raymond, qualify at Kawartha and then win gold medals at COSSA in both the 100 and 200 metre races.  Those wins allowed him to compete at OFSAA at York University.


School-St Mary's CSS Athletic Firsts

St. Mary’s CSS Thunder - Firsts during 35 Yr Growth of Athletic Department

1984      St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School (SMCSS) opens its doors.
1985/86 The first athletes compete for the school in Swimming, Cross-Country and Track & Field.  A small handful of students.
1986      The first year of organized sports teams competing in Kawartha Athletics as the St. Mary’s Marauders.
1988      The beginnings of Track, Basketball, Badminton, Soccer, Tennis, Weightlifting and Girls Softball
1989      The beginnings of Wrestling, Weightlifting, J/S Boys Soccer, J/S Girls Basketball, M/J Boys Basketball, M/J Girls Volleyball, M Boys Volleyball, Cross-country, Badminton, Boys Hockey, Girls Softball, Girls Soccer, Tennis, Swimming 
1990      Name changed from Marauders to THUNDER
1990      The beginnings of Track, M/S Boys Basketball, M/J Girls Basketball, J/S Badminton, Tennis, Weightlifting, M/J/S Girls Volleyball, M/J Boys Volleyball, Mixed Softball, Swimming, J Girls Soccer, J Boys Soccer
1991      The beginnings of Cross-country, Track, M/J Boys Basketball, M/S Girls Basketball, M/J/S Girls Volleyball, M/J Boys Volleyball, Mixed Softball, Tennis, Badminton, Weight Training, Boys Rugby, J/S Girls Soccer, J/S Boys Soccer, Swimming, Boys Hockey
1991      The first Kawartha Championship.  Midget Boys Basketball.
1992      The first sports tour at St. Mary’s.  Boys Hockey competed in the Irish Rover Tournament at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
The beginnings of J/S Girls Soccer, J/S Boys Soccer, Boys Hockey, Mixed Softball, M/J/S Girls Basketball, M/J Boys Basketball (KAWARTHA CHAMPS), S Boys Volleyball (KAWARTHA CHAMPS), M/J/S Girls Volleyball, Tennis, Badminton, Boys Rugby, Swimming
1995      Girls Rugby begins.
1997      Golf begins.
1999      Girls Hockey begins.
1999      The First COSSA Championships are won.  Junior Girls Soccer AND Senior Girls Rugby
2002      The first OFSAA Medal is won.  Brian Hamilton wins Silver in the 400m Hurdles in Track & Field.
2004      Boys Football begins.
2007      The First OFSAA Individual Champion – James Nearing wins Tennis Singles.
2010      Ultimate Frisbee begins.
2011       Floorball begins.
2012      The First Repeat OFSAA Individual Champion – Kristina Steins wins the 100m Backstroke.  She won the same event in 2010.  She also became the first athlete to win multiple OFSAA medals.
2012      St. Mary’s hosts its first OFSAA Championships – Boys A/AA Rugby.
2015      Boys Baseball begins.
2016      The First OFSAA Team Medal – Boys Golf win Bronze.
2018      The First OFSAA Team Champion – Boys Rugby.
2019      The First OFSAA Repeat Team Champion – Boys Rugby.



School-St. Mary’s CSS Early Athletics

The Turning Point of Early Success

I began my teaching/coaching career at St Mary’s Catholic Secondary School (SMCSS) in 1989. It was a small populated school of about 200 students. We were trying to establish publicly funded Catholic education. Prior to that my philosophies were forged in an environment of very competitive and successful athletic endeavors. In spite of the successes the common theme were values driven programs.

So, when I came to SMCSS that is what I attempted to offer. It was not easy in the beginning, where my philosophy was a bit in conflict with the current situation. I demanded a strong commitment to excellence through 'Education through Sport". I perpetuated a motto of, 'No School, No Sports, No Practice, No Play."

This demand was not readily accepted and only a few student/athletes could commit to the dedication that was required. The first sports that I developed using these demands were Basketball and Volleyball. Among the core student athletes that forged the legacy of "It's a Thunder Thing" for the next five years of arduous pursuits in these two core sports were Jason Craig, Eric O'Rourke, Mike Bons, Gary Collins, Bryan Brady, Andrew Ross and Michael Smith.

What became pivotal to our successes was when we were able to convert the small 60 foot by 30 foot gym (volleyball court dimensions) from a cafeteria at lunch to a practice facility. The core athletes practiced every lunch hour the various pursuits for five years. Practices were all closed because I felt that practice was not a spectator sport. Student/athletes need to be in a learning environment free to make mistakes and learn.

Of course, there was some resistance from the administration because of the optics of an elite program. However, with the incorporation of a House System for inter mural sports that was more inclusive, the administration softened and we proceeded.

I also coached a group of female/student athletes for 3 years with the same tenacity demands. They were highly committed and wanted to emulate what the boys were doing.  These athletes included Cynthia Jurchison, Amy O’Rourke, Rachel King, Melissa Bonner, Jennifer Burleigh, Denise McDonald and Lola Teelucksingh.  I tried to develop programs instead of just having teams.

We were fortunate at SMCSS, because we had a stable of teacher/coaches who committed themselves to kids and spent many hours away from their families to spend time with other people's families. Even during the 'Strike Year' I was able to conduct coaching courses where similar perspectives to inter school sports were formulated.

Our teachers did not want to sanction no coaching and we were prepared to start up our own "Catholic League" so we could continue to participate and compete at an inter school level. Some of the trail blazers who led many fine programs at SMCSS during the early years were, Steve Egan, Stan Muldoon, Donna Conway, Jane Anne Egan, Rick Seggie, Jim Blainey, Ray Heffernan, John McDougall, Mike Desjardins and Mike Killoran.

By Rob Majdell
Former Teacher, Coach, Athletic Director, Principal


Sport Team or Name This Story is about

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

School-St Mary’s CSS Rugby:Boys

Thunder OFSAA Gold

From T-shirts to Champions

High School Rugby was becoming popular in rural Ontario so teachers Rob Majdell and Ray Heffernan thought they would start a rugby program in the spring of 1993. St Mary’s Catholic Secondary School (SMCSS) was still a small school of about 400 students. The expectation was that 20 firm participants would be needed at every practice, at every lunch, to continue with this program.

The other local high schools with their bigger population bases (around 800 students each) had already established rugby programs. For the betterment of rugby they agreed to play St. Mary’s new team in exhibition play for the first 3 years. These teams included Trinity College School, Cobourg East and Cobourg West.

During the first 2 years, players wore only t-shirts as jerseys. In year three, after the team became established, the school ordered and bought keeper jerseys. The fellas thought they were too nice to wear for games, so they decided to keep wearing t-shirts. The team began playing in the Kawartha league in 1996 and as they say, the rest is history.

In 2000, Greg Conway joined the coaching staff.  The team rebranded itself as the Thunder RFC and began to enjoy more success on the pitch – more coaches meant more skill development for the players.  By 2003, the team had its first player selected to Team Ontario – Sandy Sweet.  His skill and attitude started to turn the tide towards a more competitive approach by the players. 

The coaching staff had also added Drew Quemby to the fold.  This was massive as Rob Majdell had moved on to become a Vice-Principal at another school.  The team began showing potential, competing with or even defeating powerhouse teams from Lindsay and Peterborough – teams that only 2 or 3 years prior had been winning by 70 points!

In 2004, the team embarked on the first of many Rugby Tours.  The island of Bermuda was chosen.  The destination, along with amazing experiences like playing against the Bermuda U-18 team on the national pitch, drew even more athletes out to the team.  Touring became a mainstay and was the turning point in prying male athletes away from the mindset of only playing hockey.  The team now prides itself as a touring side, having embarked on 13 ruby tours to places like England, Hawaii, Barbados, Scotland, France, New York City and even the Rugby World Cup in 2015.  The opportunity to go on these tours has attracted many more athletes to try the sport, which has resulted in a very competitive side moving forward.

St. Mary’s has held the Saxon Cup (Northumberland championship) since 2005, after Port Hope won the inaugural competition in 2004.  The Junior Boys are the sole winner of the Junior Saxon Cup, winning it every year it has existed.  The Thunder take the local rivalry very seriously – the only loss by either the Junior or Senior team since 2002 to a local team came in the Saxons Cup final in 2004 to Port Hope.  Keeping the streak alive is taken to heart!

In 2005, the team qualified for its first COSSA Championship after making its first Kawartha Final in team history.  2010 saw the team win its first COSSA medal – a Silver – after toppling powerhouse Centennial from Belleville in the Semis.  They would lose a very tight COSSA final by 2 points and miss out on OFSAA.

In 2011, the Junior Boys won the team’s first Kawartha Championship.  2012 saw the team compete in its first OFSAA Championship – as host school.  Though ranked in the bottom half of the 16-team tournament draw, the team finished 5th overall!  That success was further demonstrated the following year, as the Senior Boys won their first Kawartha title in 2013.

The team had entered a new competitive phase – regularly competing for Kawartha titles and qualifying for COSSA.  They also had athletes not only competing for Ontario, but also being selected to represent Canada.  Brandon McLeod, or “The Missile”, played internationally on the Canada Sevens development team 6 times.  Owain Ruttan represented Canada for their U-18 and U-20 teams a total of 11 times, scoring two tries, including one against Wales!

2016 saw a Junior Team unlike any before at SMCSS.  They captured the Kawartha title and the team’s first COSSA Gold.  That same team won COSSA Gold again at Senior in 2017, 2018 and 2019.  During that run, they produced 4 more Canadian players – Josh Barss, Keagan Read, Adam McNee and Mason Flesch.
In 2018, the Senior Boys team reached new heights 25 years after the first team started play.  They toured Hawaii and defeated the powerful Kahuku – Hawaii state champions.  They returned home and won the Kawartha Championship as well as the COSSA Championship.  All that remained was OFSAA.
They entered as the #1 seed and dominated the tournament leading up to the final.  In a hard fought Gold Medal game, the Thunder prevailed 26-19 to capture its first Provincial Championship.  They outscored all opponents at OFSAA by a margin of 200-24 and finished the season a perfect 16-0.  

The 2019 team was not to be outdone.  That team won Kawartha and COSSA again, and went on the win the OFSAA Championship, becoming only the third school to ever repeat as Champion.  History was made however as St. Mary’s won the 2019 title game 40-0, which is the largest margin of victory in any OFSAA Boys Rugby Championship Final.

It has taken almost 30 years to reach the pinnacle.  They began in t-shirts and running shoes, losing by 70 or 80 points.  They have since seen the world and risen to the top, with back-to-back OFSAA Gold.  The coaching staff has grown as well – additions Tim Linehan, Adam Janssen, Shawn Carmichael have all played a part in the team’s growth and success.  As a coaching staff, we are excited to see where the team can go next!!!

Greg Conway - Head Coach, Thunder RFC

Updated August 2020

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.